display | more...

The street
drowns in tomatoes:
noon,
summer,
light
breaks
in two
tomato
halves,
and the streets
run
with juice.
In December
the tomato
cuts loose,
invades
kitchens,
takes over lunches,
settles
at rest
on sideboards,
with the glasses,
butter dishes,
blue salt-cellars.
It has
its own radiance,
a goodly majesty.
Too bad we must
assassinate:
a knife
plunges
into its living pulp,
red
viscera,
a fresh,
deep,
inexhaustible
sun
floods the salads
of Chile,
beds cheerfully
with the blonde onion,
and to celebrate
oil
the filial essence
of the olive tree
lets itself fall
over its gaping hemispheres,
the pimiento
adds
its fragrance,
salt its magnetism--
we have the day's
wedding:
parsley
flaunts
its little flags,
potatoes
thump to a boil,
the roasts
beat
down the door
with their aromas:
it's time!
let's go!
and upon
the table,
belted by summer,
tomatoes,
stars of the earth,
stars multiplied
and fertile
show off
their convolutions,
canals
and plenitudes
and the abundance
boneless,
without husk,
or scale or thorn,
grant us
the festival
of ardent colour
and all-embracing freshness.

--Pablo Neruda, Odas elementales, 1954, translated by Nathanial Tarn.
Pablo Neruda, selected poems, Penguin Books, 1975.
Edited by Nathaniel Tarn, translated by Anthony Kerrigan, W.S. Merwin, Alastair Reid and Nathaniel Tarn, with an introduction by Jean Franco.

The great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, increasingly in the last years of his life, became occupied with clarity in his poetry, his intent being to move away from the literate and political society that had previously been his audience.

His Elemental Odes, of which this poem is one example, were intended to be as natural as a song upon the street in the little town in which he grew up, thus amplifying the power of words in a time when poets and writers increasingly used silence as a tool.

His intention was for his art to be as close to life as possible, and Elemental Odes celebrates real life, lived by real people during a period of Latin American history in which surrealism was the more stereotypical poetic medium.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.